03 Oct 2019
Celebration of 150th Missionary Expedition
by Fr. Gianni Rolandi, SDB
(ANS – Turin – September 30) – On September 29 Fr. Angel Fernandez Artime presided at the Eucharistic celebration of the 150th Missionary Expedition, during which he presented the missionary cross to 36 Salesians and 13 Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. Assisting were his vicar, Fr. Francesco Cereda; the general councilor for the missions, Fr. Guillermo Basañes; Mother General Yvonne Reungoat; and Sr. Alaide Deretti, the FMA councilor for the missions.
In front of the statue of Don Bosco in the courtyard of the basilica of Mary Help of Christians, the Rector Major and the 36 new SDB missionaries began to prepare to launch the 2019 missionary appeal. The Rector Major makes that appeal every year on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Surrounded by the Salesian missionaries of the 150th Expedition, the Rector Major wished to appeal to all the Salesians in the world from the very courtyard that saw the beginnings of our Family and the consolidation of the Salesian charism.
Immediately preceding that moment, in the theater of the Oratory of Valdocco Sr. Deretti and Fr. Basañes made a very youthful, media-savvy presentation of the 12 new FMA missionaries and 36 SDBs in three groups of “12 apostles.” The recorded interviews of several missionaries are lively and definitely worth seeing. The event was broadcast live by Rete 7 and on various Facebook channels.
During the homily at Mass, Fr. Fernandez emphasized that today is a day of great celebration for the Congregation, the Institute, and the Church: the 150th Missionary Expedition, 144 years after the first expedition of 1875. These expeditions have been sent forth without interruption, even during the two terrible world wars.
Fr. Fernandez highlighted an interesting point. In the office of the councilor for the missions, the Book of Missionaries records 9,542 Salesian missionaries sent by the Rectors Major from this Basilica in the 150 expeditions…. It seems that the real total number of those sent is more than 10,400. Our congregations are recognized for the education and evangelization of the young, and with these numbers, we can safely say we are indeed and truly a missionary Institute and Congregation. The fire of love for Jesus has not allowed us to remain closed within four walls; on the contrary.
The most important point is precisely that Jesus is at the center of our lives: God calls us and sends us … to share life, to give … to witness Jesus with life, with the example of charity, with great respect for the diversity of each and every one….
The Salesian response to the extraordinary missionary month – October 2019, launched by Pope Francis – is this missionary sending, to enrich the presence of Jesus in all continents, except Australia this time.
Continuing his homily, the Rector Major then presented three examples of particular witnesses, since the world wants witnesses and not teachers or professors.
Bishop Marcello Melani: Italian of origin, missionary for many years in Argentina. Once he finished his service as bishop in the diocese of Neuquen in Patagonia, he returned to the province to which he belonged and served as parish priest and catechist. He felt ready to answer to the call of the Pope and the Rector Major, and his availability was accepted. He will go to Peru.
Fr. Bashir Souccar: a Syrian, 71 years old, expert in running the youth center with Muslims. From the Middle East Province he made himself available and will go to Tunisia … to bring the joy of the youth center [there], especially among young Muslims.
Fr. Germain Plakoo-Mlapa: Togolese, he was present at the martyrdom of both Fr. Cesar Antonio Fernandez in February 2019 and of Fr. Fernando Hernandez in May 2019, which took place in Burkina Faso; he was next to both and does not know why he was not killed too. Now he is here, recovering, and his heart is full of serenity and peace because he knows how to forgive and continues to live with the heart full of Jesus and his love.
Here is the witness of life beyond words: